Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Writer(s): Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler
Artwork: Eric Zawadzki, Dee Cunniffe (colours)
Release Date: 1st March 2017
I called the first issue of The Dregs “one of the most accomplished debuts of 2017”, so to say that my expectations were high for the second chapter – on sale this week from Black Mask Studios – would be a massive understatement. Thankfully, the creative quartet of Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe prove to be more than up to the task here, delivering another humorous, tragic and thoroughly gripping installment of this wonderfully subverted crime mystery.
To bring you up to speed; Arnold, an aging drug addict living in the squalid five-block area of downtown Vancouver dubbed “The Dregs”, is investigating the mysterious disappearance of his friend Manny. Manny, it seems, has become the latest victim of the twisted ‘gentrification’ of the area which involves “La Mancha”, a posh new restaurant, using butchered homeless people as the chief ingredients on its menu. Arnold’s drug-addled investigations have put him, almost inadvertently, onto the right track, leading him being captured at the end of the previous issue and seemingly earmarked for the same fate as his friend.
Thompson and Nadler’s socially aware premise remains utterly captivating, and this issue provides us with a much more in-depth look at the society and structure of The Dregs, with Arnold’s search leading him to a few well-known local landmarks. There’s also an unavoidable tinge of sadness to Arnold’s tale as he tries to get to the bottom of his friend’s disappearance, particularly during one poignant scene where Arnold imagines himself being helped by the “dame” from the first issue, sitting in the corner and watching her tend to him – or rather, to the hard-boiled P.I. he pictures himself as – while sadly munching away on a tin of cat food.
Zawadzki and Cunniffe combine to give the book a vivid, stylised aesthetic, packing a surprising amount of emotion and expression into the stoic, beard-clad face of our leading man. The colour palette is suitably bleak, and once again the visual ‘tics’ are utilised brilliantly, from the distorted way our hero sees people’s faces to one gloriously disorientating page which sees the reader having to slowly rotate the issue in their hands as they follow Arnold’s seemingly directionless search. Seriously, the visual structure of this book is absolutely impeccable.
The mystery builds throughout the course of this issue, with Arnold “following the signs” and somehow still managing to stay on the right track, almost in spite of himself. The closing pages suggest that Thompson and Nadler are planning on letting us find out a little more about our tragic hero’s past, for better or worse, and while the reader is already in the position of knowing the answer to the mystery, watching Arnold’s journey as he desperately tries to figure things out is guaranteed to keep providing genuinely gripping reading.
Beautiful, poignant and utterly unique, The Dregs is like absolutely nothing else on the shelves right now, and comes with my highest possible recommendation.